The Rise of Creationism

Oddly, until a few years ago I had never even heard of Intelligent Design or Creationism. I put this down to having gone to a good, high quality, school and having as my main circle of friends intelligent and educated people.

I can honestly say that prior to discovering the American madness, I was blissfully unaware that anyone really thought there was any grounds for this to be thought of as sensible, let alone a legitimate scientific topic. I think my first encounters with the madness idea called ID came around the turn of the millennium. How things have changed in the last seven years.

The idea that, in 1999, there was a mainstream awareness of ID / Creationism in the UK is laughable. It was certainly never even alluded to while I was at school – it might have been hinted at in Religious Education classes, but even then it was done with an understanding it wasn’t “real.”I have friends who have gone on to be teachers and university types – who all studied around the end of the 1990s, and they support my recollections that ID/Creationism was virtually unheard of in the UK at that time.

Now, however, things are different.

Reading the BBC Education news draws a frightening picture, with an article titled “Teachers Fear Evolution Lessons.” The BBC piece is well worth reading, and begins:

The teaching of evolution is becoming increasingly difficult in UK schools because of the rise of creationism, a leading scientist is warning.

Head of science at London’s Institute of Education Professor Michael Reiss says some teachers, fearful of entering the debate, avoid the subject totally.

This generates two reactions in me. Sadly for teachers (and my closest friend is a biology teacher), neither cast teachers in a good light.

First off, since when have teachers been “fearful” of entering a debate with their students? What crazy world is this we live in. If a teacher is incapable, or unwilling, to debate with a student who disagrees with what they are saying then they are not teachers. Do teachers want to simply teach robotic children who soak up every single thing they are taught without question or challenge? I honestly hope not.

Secondly, why are teachers allowing these ideas to spread in the first place? It seems teacher-spokespersons (often self appointed I presume) will regularly come up with some news worthy diatribe about how teachers are being prevented from teaching because parents are allowing their kids to be unruly, eat the wrong food, watch too much TV etc. Surely this is really not something the teachers can blame others for. If teachers were doing their job properly, then people would understand how creationism is nonsense and could get on with the task of learning science.

Anyway, going back to my original point, when did creationism become such a big thing in the UK. We were once (as social “scientist” Heather will keep reminding me) a more secular nation than Communist Russia where religion was outlawed. This is now, obviously, consigned to the dust bin of history, but I am curious as to when / why this change took place. Did the internet and Americanisation of our culture cause it? Does the vast amount of Polish immigrants cause it? Does any one know? Read the article and let me know what you think.

[tags]Education, Teachers, Biology, Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, ID, Darwin, Dawkins, Science, Religion, Belief, Madness, Society, Culture, Secular, Christian, UK, Michael Reiss, London’s Institute of Education, Teaching, Educational Standards, Nutcases[/tags]

12 thoughts on “The Rise of Creationism

  1. One point I didnt want to make in the main text, mainly to encourage people to read the BBC article first, is the Professors implications that the rise of Creationism is directly linked to the rise of Muslims in the UK. Quoting the BBC:

    He said: “The number of Muslim students has grown considerably in the last 10 to 20 years and a higher proportion of Muslim families do not accept evolutionary theory compared with Christian families.

    Oddly, Islamic school children are a significant Minority in schools, so how have they cowed the teachers to such a degree?

  2. That is indeed a weird attribution of responsibility. Creationism/ID/ are hardly the stuff of much Muslim concern.
    Are there really teachers so craven that either the fear of offending stupid parents or the fear of being challenged by pupils who dissent from their views would constrain them? They really should find another job.

  3. The point of my higher education was to become a teacher. I began to volunteer in some classrooms during my junior year and I really got a good insight into the processes. Based on conversations where I would ask many questions, I realized that there would be very little latitude. This article is exactly the type of situation that would frustrate me to no end.

    Also, one in ten believe in the literal interpretation of creationism? I wish it were that low here in the States.

  4. I live in the city where the Dover case was tried, and rejoiced at the decision of Judge Jones after it came down. But I’m finding more and more that despite the decision, it’s a victory in name only, because the teachers still shy away from properly teaching evolution. They are afraid of the controversy, they are afraid of the confrontation they will have with parents who disagree and teach the opposite to their children on Sundays.

    If the lesser scientists (biology teachers with basic degrees) don’t understand, or are more persuaded by their religious beliefs, it won’t get taught. Even if you force it, mandate the teachers to spend X time on it, if they don’t believe it, they will get the message across to their students.

    Hell, all they have to do is say, at the beginning of class “I don’t believe this, but they make me teach it to you, so open your books to page….”

    And they wonder why all the scientists are coming out of Japan, India and Korea?

  5. “First off, since when have teachers been “fearful” of entering a debate with their students? Do teachers want to simply teach robotic children who soak up every single thing they are taught without question or challenge? I honestly hope not.

    Secondly, why are teachers allowing these ideas to spread in the first place?”

    There appears to be a paradox in what you are saying. If you suggest that children should not be allowed to question or challenge content, then how can you also complain that teachers should not have allowed creationist ideas to spread?

    Before you assume that I’m a creationist (shudder) I’d like to be clear that creationism is utter stupidity and should not be allowed into science classrooms. Perhaps you are actually saying that you’d like to see teachers better prepared to refute creationist fantasies and better backed up by educational and political authorities.

    There really should be *no* ‘creation vs evolution’ debate because biological evolution is an empirically demonstrated *fact*. Science has effectively disproven the creation myth in the Book of Genesis, but religionists refuse to admit this.

    How did this deplorable state of affairs come about? America is almost entirely responsible because religious fundamentalism has too long been unopposed in America and educational standards are far too low in the US. I think that the time is long past where any educated person can afford to be polite about this ignorant idiocy.

  6. There appears to be a paradox in what you are saying. If you suggest that children should not be allowed to question or challenge content, then how can you also complain that teachers should not have allowed creationist ideas to spread?

    There is no paradox there at all.

    Teachers are there to teach the students. The children should be encouraged to question what the teachers are teaching and the teacher should be able to teach it in such a manner that the student learns the correct information (for want of better words).

    Allowing nonsense to spread is not the result of pupils questioning the teacher (in my school, every teacher was put through hell on every subject, yet creationism was never thought of as a science), it is the result of teachers not teaching.

  7. I was educated in Eastern Europe (pre-college) and I briefly taught college in the United States a few years back. As a student in Eastern Europe I didn’t even dare question the knowledge of my teachers. So when I was in school the teacher made the rules and I followed. At home the parents supplemented the education I got in school.

    As a teacher in the United States I got to see the lack of respect for educators not just from the students but also from the parents. The parents expect the teachers to teach kids the things that parents should be responsible for, yet they don’t expect teachers to teach their kids what they’re there to teach, science, biology, languages etc. Teachers are not parents and they shouldn’t be expected to be parents, just so that the parents can excuse themselves from their parental responsibilities. So what f the educator teaches evolution at school? The parent can still teach creationism at home.

    Another thing I learned by teaching in the U.S. is that the culture of entitlement is overpowering. It’s the concept of deserving certain things, of ownership, just because you’re an American. So teachers have lost their freedom to be educators to the entitled demands of the masses. The nature of entitlement is that it gives people confidence where there shouldn’t be any, and allows people to avoid criticism. I had a freshman student who used the following argument to complain about a low grade: “I was a straight A student in high school so I can’t get a low grade.” I said, “yes you can and here’s why you got the low grade.” Next day I was faced with a complaint to the dean for being disrespectful to the student and not being understanding enough of her mental distress at having to adapt to being in college.

  8. Mana
    Fascinating comment.

    You didn’t quite understand some of what TW said. There is no contradiction between teaching children science and encouraging them to question you. How did you get the idea he said students shouldn’t question the content of what they were taught?

    The whole concept of a good teacher must mean someone who encourages questioning. The most important role for a teacher is to encourage the student to want to learn how to gain knowledge for themselves.

    Both students and teachers need to accept that criticism of their work is not criticism of their being.

    This can’t be the case unless both sides are mentally free to point out the errors of the other.

  9. Interesting Post. I am amazed by the debate between Creationism and Evolutionism continues in education. Perhaps, science or religious teachers should explain that both are theories without explicit evidence to confirm or deny which theory is true. As such, both require Faith, a belief that something is true without any supporting facts.

    I know both sides claim they have their “facts” yet, I have not seen any conclusive evidence that their “facts” can be independently tested and verified using the sound principles of the scientific method.

    I fully agree with TW, students should question what they are being taught. Asking questions is the best way of gaining knowledge!

  10. “Believe in” is (IMHO) the wrong choice of words.

    When a form of creationism (give it any name you want) is able to produce testable predictions then it can be considered science. Until then “design” or “guided” lies in the realms of “belief” – and as such should be kept away from the science class.

    The evidence we have available to us at the moment points strongly to life “happening by itself” as the best of those four options. One thing I would disagree with is the requirement for God to exist or not exist.

    While I personally do not believe in things like faeries, witches, demons and deities it is not a requirement for evolution to be correct.

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